I know that I am dating myself, but I grew up watching the original Star Trek series & came of age in my teens watching Star Wars. In my officers’ basic course on active duty, our class instructors rapidly learned that young Lieutenants got very grumpy if class ran late on “Next-Gen” (Star Trek: The Next Generation) night. Spin-offs also included Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine & Star Trek: Enterprise. While Trekkies & Star Wars buffs are not taken too seriously by most, frequently bearing the brunt of many jokes for their conventions & attire, the effects of these two series should not been taken too lightly. Much of our modern thought has been influenced by them, or perhaps our “modern thought” of the 60s-90s influenced them?
These series & movies focused on many issues in our current culture such as racism & equality. Women & minorities were portrayed in positions of power & leadership. Humanity had finally united as one & resolved all of its issues dealing with the social disparities of poverty, pollution, hunger, injustice, suffering & etc. by eliminating all forms of currency. Everyone worked for the betterment of the human species. Humanity was frequently portrayed as no longer war-like, getting along with alien species even though in reality humanity continues to fail to get along with itself. Humanity’s chosen lifestyle was no better or worse than any other “species”, allegory for civilization; furthermore the same applied to humanity itself. Humans were nothing special, just one species among millions of other species evolving their way throughout the universe. It was all in all a very humanist & utopian future.
Given its humanistic leanings Star Trek was not so kind when dealing with the subject of God/gods. Religious beliefs & practices were dismissed as quaint relics from a primitive past which humanity had long ago surpassed the need for through increased scientific knowledge & technological advancements. In Star Trek “God” was a being that was just further along on the evolutionary timeline than the rest of us. Any being that claimed to be an omnipotent or omniscient god was quickly revealed to be a deceptive charlatan destined for defeat within a 1-hour timeframe. Any religious beliefs or practices a culture still had was evidence that they were not yet as advanced as those without such hindrances. While viewed with disdain & suspicion, they were patronizingly tolerated as long as they did not interfere with the being’s work performance, work schedule or the crew’s mission. Even in the 24th century, one had to have their priorities.
Enter the Prime Directive.
“The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, & a very correct one. History has proven again & again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.” (Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Symbiosis)
In the original Star Trek series (Bread & Circuses) the Prime Directive is defined as: “No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations.” In Star Trek: The Next Generation it had developed into a “philosophy”, a philosophy very much in evidence in our secular culture & increasingly in religious culture. In real life, there is disagreement as to who originated the Prime Directive. In a 1991 interview by “The Humanist” magazine, Gene Roddenberry, the famed creator of Star Trek, relates how Star Trek & especially Star Trek: The Next Generation were used to promote his humanist philosophy. Therefore, I do not think it impossible nor improbable that Roddenberry played a significant role in its development. The Prime Directive of Star Trek advocated not interfering in the affairs & development of other civilizations. This “live & let live” (or sometimes “let die”) philosophy, very prevalent in our modern mindset, was to be followed even if great suffering, death, or evil would flourish. One’s power to prevent, eliminate or stop the suffering, death or evil was irrelevant; noninterference was considered par excellence, & far more noble than St. Paul’s admonition “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:10).
Fortunately for us God has a vastly different “Prime Directive” for us. The Fathers teach us that Christianity is the only true philosophy; & thus His “Prime Directive” is very different from the philosophy of the humanist’s Prime Directive. Christ summed up the meaning of the Mosaic Law (which consisted of 613 commandments): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, & with all your mind. This is the first & great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Christ was the fulfillment & pinnacle of that Law as He was the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament that would bring salvation to all mankind. Christ then gave a new law, a prime directive if you will, to his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
The ramifications of Star Trek’s Prime Directive resulted in suffering, death & evil that could have been prevented. Compare this to the ramifications of Christian love: “Love suffers long & is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13) The Church Fathers further explained these as practical actions from which we are commanded not to refrain from:
“‘But listen,’ says he, ‘to the things in regard to which you have not to exercise self-restraint, but which you ought to do. Restrain not yourself in regard to that which is good, but do it.’ ‘And tell me, sir,’ say I, ‘the nature of the good deeds, that I may walk in them & wait on them, so that doing them I can be saved.’ ‘Listen,’ says he, ‘to the good deeds which you ought to do, & in regard to which there is no self-restraint requisite. First of all there is faith, then fear of the Lord, love, concord, words of righteousness, truth, patience. Than these, nothing is better in the life of men. If anyone attend to these, & restrain himself not from them, blessed is he in his life. Then there are the following attendant on these: helping widows, looking after orphans & the needy, rescuing the servants of God from necessities, the being hospitable—for in hospitality good-doing finds a field—never opposing any one, the being quiet, having fewer needs than all men, reverencing the aged, practicing righteousness, watching the brotherhood, bearing insolence, being long-suffering, encouraging those who are sick in soul, not casting those who have fallen into sin from the faith, but turning them back & restoring them to peace of mind, admonishing sinners, not oppressing debtors & the needy, & if there are any other actions like these.’” (The Shepherd of Hermas, 2nd Book, 8th Commandment)
This is not merely a bunch of antiquated ideas nor is God merely a religious superstition to be eventually surpassed in mankind’s scientific, philosophical & technological development. Even though adherence to the Prime Directive in Star Trek was considered to be of utmost importance, even if sacrifice of space ship &/or crew were necessary; not one of its many characters made that ultimate “sacrifice”. The opposite is true of the Church which still commemorates those who sacrificed all while following the “Prime Directive” of the Love of Christ God centuries & millennia ago. The history of the Church is overflowing with blood from those persecuted, exiled, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, tortured & martyred by the most heinous methods imaginable. No one undergoes such things for mere religious superstition or antiquated ideas. The followers of Christ are still being persecuted, imprisoned & martyred today; so much for the “live & let live” of Star Trek. This is a living Faith based on real experiences by real humans of the real Holy Trinity—Father, Son & Holy Spirit—who has revealed Himself throughout all of human history & who continues to reveal Himself.
“Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord;
God is the Lord & has revealed Himself to us!”
[Hymn chanted by communicants as they approach the Holy Chalice, based on Psalms 117(118):26, 27]